Sunday, March 23, 2008

Data Disconnect

Foreign Policy reports the findings of a survey conducted among 3,400 active and retired US military officers. Among the questions asked: "Is torture acceptable?"

When the officers were asked if they agree or disagree with the statement “Torture is never acceptable,” opinions were split. Fifty-three percent agreed, and 44 percent disagree. Nineteen percent, nearly 1 in 5 officers, say they “strongly disagree” with the notion that torture is never acceptable. Asked if they believe waterboarding is torture, opinions were similarly divided. About 46 percent of the officers say they agree with the statement “Waterboarding is torture,” and about 43 percent say they disagree.
I haven't yet been able to access the full dataset since FP's links aren't working, though presumably it's available from the Center for New American Security, which assisted in the online survey. But it's safe to say that the presentation of these findings provides a very superficial understanding of what they might actually mean.

In particular, Ban is making much of Lt. Col. John A. Nagel's comments at the survey's launch last week, regarding the "Jack Bauer" effect. But to demonstrate such an effect, we would need comparable data that predates the discursive and doctrinal changes introduced by the Bush Administration. What would the results of this survey have looked like had it been taken prior to the Bybee Memo of August 2002. An alternative hypothesis is that these results reflect a more general disconnect between those who write field manuals and those tasked with implementing them.

One thing's for sure: the following comment by Lt. Col. Nagel makes a world of sense:
"We the American military have to be very careful, I think, to preserve our most treasured attribute, which is our reputation for being the good guys."

1 comment:

crallspace said...

Those bozos squandered that reputation LONG ago.

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